I have to say I am growing more and more unimpressed with the ballooning industry in New Zealand. After the horrific incident in the Wairarapa where 11 people burnt to death, they complained that the TAIC ordered safety checks on all balloons. They should have seen it as an opportunity to reassure people.
Then last weekend, we had another incident, luckily not fatal. Stuff reports:
A terrified passenger on a hot air balloon that hit trees yesterday said she thought about jumping to save herself.
An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said he heard screaming from the 18 passengers as the balloon, operated by Up Up and Away, was hit by a strong wind gust and tore on trees while trying to land in North Canterbury about 8am. …
Savannah Hyssong was riding with her partner: “At least half the balloon hit the tree, and the basket was also in the trees. There were massive holes. It freaked me out. The only thing I was thinking was should I jump out and grab a branch.”
A 7-year-old girl was crying during the ordeal, and her father was hit on the head by a branch, Hyssong said. “There were sudden screams of panic. I think a lot of people were terrified.”
In the final attempt at landing, the balloon hit the ground “really hard” and bounced back up, and the basket tipped over, she said.
“We all landed on our backs. It was insane. Freaky – scary as hell. That’s not the way it is supposed to be. After we landed there were still huge pieces of tree stuck in the balloon.
Sounds pretty messy to say the least. But what is the reaction of the company:
A spokeswoman for Up Up and Away, who would not be named, said there was “no forced landing” and “no incident”.
“There was no risk to passengers, no emergency landing, no forced landing. They did a landing under standard procedure. There was a small tear that did not compromise the safety or the air-worthiness of the balloon.”
That sort of response concerns me, and in fact I’d never use that company based on their labeling this as no incident.
A HoS story also said:
Meanwhile, a Levin balloonist says an investigation into the Carterton crash that killed pilot Lance Hopping and 10 passengers in January is taking too long and was almost certainly the pilot’s fault.
Again, this concerns me. The industry should be demanding the investigation is as thorough as possible, not demanding it cut corners, and just blame it all on the pilot.